Coconut Milk

A Tropical Secret
Not Just for Candy Bars

“Coconuts are probably the most valuable fruit of the tropics.” — Kathie Webber [1]

The Coconut is a staple food throughout the tropical regions of the world. If you cook Southeast Asian dishes, you no doubt already use Coconut and Coconut Milk in making a number of dishes. [2,3]

Coconut Palm

Coconut Palm

Coconut Milk is used in making curries, as well as sauces, soups, and as ingredients in a number of dishes in several Pacific Rim countries.

In recent years, some concerns have surfaced about possible health risks connected with Coconut, especially with the nature of the oil it contains.  On the other hand, there are reports that there may be a number of health benefits involved, ranging from cancer prevention to treatment of dementia. Continue reading

Lemongrass

Southeast Asia’s Not-So-Secret Ingredient
Citronella’s Cousin

“Lemongrass is one of the defining flavors of Vietnamese cooking.” — Charles Phan

Lemongrass has been called the not-so-secret ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine. But not just Vietnamese Thai, Cambodian, and other Asian cooks also use it to good effect.

Cooking with lemongrass

Lemongrass

What It Is: Lemongrass is the common name for a family of more than 50 species of a plant type native to India and tropical Asia.  Continue reading

Pomegranate

Traveler on the Silk Road
A Fruit with Its Own Restaurant, Book, and Cocktail

“In cups of azure some seeds are blood;
others are drops of gold.”  — André Gide [1]

The Restaurant: Pomegranate is said to be a native of Iran.  For many years a leading destination restaurant in Tokyo is named Zakuro, which means Pomegranate in Japanese. [2]

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

Continue reading

Ovaltine

A Swiss Kids’ Drink and the Silk Road
Fusion Food in a Bento Box

Ovaltine

Ovaltine

One of the desserts at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Spice Market in Manhattan is Ovaltine Kulfi in a Bento Box.  So what does a kids’ drink have to do with Pacific Rim chefs?  Was Marco Polo peddling Ovaltine at the court of Kublai Khan?

Tell the truth, Ovaltine had not yet been invented in Marco’s day.  It came a while later. But if you were a foreign kid in Shanghai’s Foreign Settlement before the Second World War, you probably knew Ovaltine, along with Wheaties, Continue reading

Chinese Celery

Quote

The Stuff of Heroes’ Wreaths
Fragrant Swizzle Sticks

“A leafier, skinnier-stalked version of the familiar green head” — Mark Bittman

 

Chinese  Celery

Chinese Celery Plant

When you cook with Chinese Celery, you’re using he plant that ancient Greeks and Romans used to weave their heroes’ garlands. [1]

The Vegetable Itself: As the picture shows, Chinese Celery looks similar to Western Celery, but is smaller, with bright green leaves.  As Mark Bittman says, it is a “leafier, slimmer-stalked version of the familiar green.” Continue reading

Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Quote

The Most Famous Fusion Chef
Hooked on Kimchi

“No single chef has made more influence on the way…other chefs cook and other restaurants look.” — New York Magazine

Ovaltine

Ovaltine

You have probably noticed an explosion of Thai-inspired restaurants run by Westerner chefs. You will find them in many places, even in Bangkok.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Alsatian-born French chef, may be the single person most responsible for this phenomenon. Continue reading